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Fundraising and the LGBT Community

Here’s a scenario that we recently addressed: a gay donor and his or her partner make the exact same gift as a heterosexual couple. The nonprofit omits the partner of the major donor in the gift recognition process. Even though you may often see the profiles of major donors and the notes about the wife or husband and the kids, the organization makes the decision to omit the partner and the kids of the gay or lesbian family.

Discrimination in the fundraising world can be very subtle. Another case in point: an “every member campaign” is meant to meet with every family, but the organization meets individually with the gay man or woman. The conclusion to be drawn is, of course, is that a family that is made up of gay or lesbian parents is not really considered a family.

We recently learned that one organization won’t ask a gay person to be on their board (or even volunteer) for fear that he or she would advocate for gay issues or be involved in recruiting a child into being gay.

Lesbian and gay donors and their giving potential are not looked at in the same way as others in the donor database. Unfortunate, but true in all too many cases.

What Can Be Done to Better Connect with These Donors

Just like creating a culture of philanthropy, it has to start at the top. Leaders need to have open and honest conversations at all levels about what inclusion means. If the mission of an organization is tolerance, doesn’t it make sense to include gays and lesbians in these conversations?

You can’t have an organization espousing one ideal while individual staff members and volunteers have personal beliefs that they share readily with others. If I were a gay donor, I’d think to myself or perhaps even say to the executive director, “You know, I really believe in what you say your mission is. But Joe Schmo, who just asked me for a gift, didn’t really seem comfortable even being in the same room with me.” A lifetime of giving to this organization? I don’t think so.

Ironically, I’ve often seen this behavior exhibited in nonprofit’s who say that inclusivity and equity are part of their mission and values.

Specifically Suggestions

  • Engage gay and lesbian volunteers and staff in visible leadership roles, on the board or heading up various committees.

  • Make sure your staff and volunteers are comfortable working with gay families.

  • Talk to your gay and lesbian donors and their families about what you could be doing better to build your relationship.

  • Include visible representations of gay and lesbian families in your various publications.

  • Provide sensitivity training to members of the staff and volunteers as necessary.

What have I missed? Care to add our suggestions or input? We’d love to hear what you have to say on this important topic.

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